June was a banner month for the Stranges, a local family who got to meet President Donald Trump during a ceremony in which Gold Star families were invited to the White House in Washington, D.C.
Charles Strange, father of late Navy Cryptologist Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, a member of SEAL Team Six – the team responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden – and his wife Mary Ann, Michael’s step-mother, joined the families of fifty fallen soldiers during a memorial ceremony.
It was an experience, the Stranges said, they’d never forget.
“The Trumpster walked right over and said, ‘It’s nice to meet you, I’m sorry for your loss,’” recalled Strange, who said he took a moment to tell the president the story of how his son was killed. “He said, ‘You know what I did about that? I just signed $400 million for new helicopters.’”
Strange said they met the president and first lady, Melania Trump, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen.
During his moment to speak to the president, Strange said he was able to tell the story of how his son was part of the team that killed Bin Laden.
“I’m told he was the third man in the door to kill Bin Laden,” Strange said. “He [Trump] goes, ‘Oh, he was a badass, huh?’”
During the evening, the Stranges joined other families for a dinner and a ceremony during which the names of the departed were read and candles were lit in their memory.
The Stranges said that the president and the first lady were kind, honorable hosts throughout the day.
“He is just so down to earth,” said Mary Ann Strange. “Just a great guy.”
Headlines during their visit about the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia did not sour any part of their experience – both scoffed at the idea of the president being investigated for any connection to the foreign nation.
“That was all a bunch of B.S.,” Mary Ann said.
The Stranges and other Gold Star families were invited to D.C. to attend an event memorializing soldiers who had died in service to their country since Sept. 11, 2001. Strange’s son died on Aug. 6, 2011, after the Chinook helicopter he was riding in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 21 other special ops soldiers.
It was the largest loss of American lives in Afghanistan.
“On Aug. 6, it will be six years,” said Strange. “Still, some days it feels like it’s every day.”
Since his son’s death, Strange founded the Michael Strange Foundation, which works to provide families of soldiers who have died in the line of duty – that’s what a Gold Star family means – with a process to grieve and counseling services, and organizes ceremonies around the country to help families come to terms with loss.
Ten of the families involved in Strange’s organization joined him for Monday’s trip to the White House.
For more information on the Michael Strange Foundation, visit michaelstrangefoundation.org.